"Islands of Natural Order" by Jeff Schirmann

Historically, the Japanese have experienced brutal civil wars, countless shifts of power with changing ideals, and defended against several attempted invasions. Somehow through all of the chaos the Japanese found beauty, spirituality, and balance in nature which they proudly displayed through the years in their art. "Islands of Natural Order" attempts to pay homage to the spiritual and artistic balance that the Japanese people sought in their day to day lives.

"Yoshitsune Falls" is a wonderful visual representation of this gallery. Artist Katsushika Hokusai displays balance in spacing by painting the waterfall zig-zagging from the top left corner and finally ending in the bottom right corner. Color balance is also on display here; not only the blue water bisecting the piece, but the yellow flowers and grass growing on either side compliments the red rocks dividing them down the middle.
This 2,000 year old painting by Utagawa Hiroshige shows beautiful symmetry in nature; although the hillsides divided by the road are different sizes, Hiroshima includes a crop of trees on top of each hill and directly in the middle, the focus of this piece, the looming mountain in the background stands tall and creates a sense of spacial balance.
Reflection is one of the most powerful methods of achieving balance in spirituality, as well as in art. Kawase Hasui masterfully balanced this piece by painting a detailed reflection of the landscape in the lake, which takes up nearly half of the entire frame, highlighting the beauty of this scene with a small bird dancing across the water.
Another 2,000 year old piece displaying great spacing and balance within a single scene. Artist Utagawa Hiroshige II utilizes bold blue lines of water separating the shore on the top and bottom of this piece. A continued display of balance within nature is depicted by the villagers traveling through the water, no doubt depending on the river for transportation, commerce, and survival.
Kobayashi Kiyochika's 140 year old painting is the artistic definition of symmetry and balance. The sky and water each take up nearly identical amounts of space, separated by a landmass and two nearly identical trees side by side, along with 2 similarly sized trees in the left and right background. Kiyochika places a bird in the bottom right corner, and inversely in the top left corner. To add even more symmetry to this piece, Kiyochika painted the reflection of the boat and its occupants.
Yet another symmetric and very balanced scene, this piece of artwork makes great use of shapes within groups of objects; specifically in triangles. There are 3 clear sets of triangles displayed here: Starting from the bottom of the frame, the first triangle is the placement of the people on shore, made up of the 2 children to the left, 2 adults to the right and the single adult in the center. In the middle of this piece, another triangle of objects can be found in the clusters of trees; center foreground, left mid-ground, and right background. The final triangle of objects are the 3 mountain tops in the background completing 3 sets of triangles at the bottom, middle, and top of this piece.
Artist Kawase Hasui use spectacular visual spacing and balance of objects in this piece "Matsushima in the Moonlight." Even though the central focus of this piece, the island in the middle, is offset slightly to the right; balance is achieved placing the moon and the moon's reflection in the water on the left end of the island.
This piece features 5 significant different levels of nature from bottom to top; the river banks, the water, the forest, the mountain, and the sky. Visually, all of these elements are nearly the same size, which creates a great sense of overall balance to the piece. Each level of nature being the same size may also be a comment on the importance of each element within the natural cycle of life.
Another wonderful example of the symmetry and balance found in nature is expertly displayed in the reflection of this temple in the water. The detail of the temple's reflection is a near perfect; however artist Kawase Hasui takes the detail a step further by painting the top of the tree in the reflection of the water, but it is not seen at the top of the painting.
The final piece of "Islands of Natural Order" is the perfect example of the balance and harmony that inspired the entire gallery. Not only the symmetric layout of the mountains in the foreground, or the 2 mountain peaks in the back ground, but the balance of color amongst the water, trees, and the sky literally paints a perfect picture of the order in nature that the Japanese revered.
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